This is my friend Leticia. She’s a singer and band leader of Pan American music, a wife and mother. She’s also been a dancer, choreographer, yoga teacher, arts administrator, founder of a performance company, oil refinery worker and donut seller, to name a few. Her lifetime job is that of an artist, she says, and one characteristic of working artists is the number of jobs they hold in order to continue their art. It's a good thing that artists are curious about the world in which they live. Success depends on this flexibility and adaptability.
This artistic soul and curiosity about life at all stages is how Leticia got connected to an Austin nonprofit called Swan Songs. Several times a year she works with the group, which organizes private concerts to fulfill the musical wishes of individuals with a terminal illness.
What a powerful way to share the gift of music and of time. “I connect with people on a very basic level, their emotions, the ephemeral,” says Leticia. “I give happiness, compassion, trust, understanding and love.”
Each performance is different. People react with quiet happiness, as well as sorrow and tears. Sometimes they recount events from their lives or acknowledge what the music means to them. Once a recipient heard the first song, then sent someone to her room to fetch a pair of maracas. “She played for just a few moments, but the happiness on her face was unforgettable. She told stories about her life as a Spanish teacher and lover of Spanish music to a roomful of staff, hospice nurses, family members and musicians surrounding her, supporting her, loving her. It was a beautiful afternoon.”
I asked Leticia what she’s learned from working with Swan Songs. “I see lives well lived. I see humanity and think about how I'd like to die one day. I think about the importance of discussing death in preparation for its eventually. I think about how people are afraid to confront death, and that I am in a special circumstance by which I can learn and hopefully gain a better understanding of both life and death by witnessing and participating in something unique, a person's passing.” What a soulful perspective.